tv Your Business MSNBC December 18, 2011 4:30am-5:00am PST
small business optimism is up. how are small business owners feeling about 2012 and the presidential election? and a former rockette who opens a dance studio sees her revenue grow by leaps and bounds. we'll have all that and more coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy, and american express open is here to help. that's why we are proud to present "your business" on msnbc.
hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business." where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. it's been an up and down year for small business owners. but there's reportedly some positive news as we head into the new year. the national federation of independent businesses optimism index grows 1.8 points last month. the highest level since february. the survey also showed an increase in small business owners who expect sales to increase, and those who are making plans to hire. the need to help small businesses was a political football in 2011, with president obama pushing his small business jobs plan and supporting small business saturday. his political opponents in the gop have also raised issues affecting small business owners, in debates running up to primary season. so, what will 2012 bring for our
entrepreneurial community? william dunkelberg is the chief economist for the nfib. brian hamilton is the co-founder and ceo of save work a company that developed software for financial professionals and small businesses. brian hecht is a serial new media entrepreneur and phil town is an investment adviser and best-selling author. great to see all of you. all right, phil, you have been here every year, i think, doing this with us at the end of the year, so i want to start with you, also, because we cited your survey. optimism up three months in a row. in your crystal ball, do you expect this to continue next year? >> well, i think it will continue. as we look at the basics in the economy, we see that, you know, either we're just getting used to bad news and so we're going to try to ignore it and move forward, or some good things are happening. and i think the latter is the case. so we did see an improvement in the optimism index. and in particular, inside of the index, the ten components, seven of them went up, put some nice numbers in place. and as you cited, what was
really good was on the job side. we had a nice increase in the percent of owners planning to create new jobs. that is increase employment. and also the percent of owners with a hard-to-fill job opening, which means labor markets in parts of the country are tightening up. and that means the unemployment rate is going to go down. so we'll see, you know, initial claims for unemployment will start to fade and we will make some progress on that. and we also saw the capital spending up and plans up. and that's good. so the gdp numbers are looking a lot better now in the survey. >> phil, how do you think last year went? and what do you think is coming up for us next year? >> i think last year was a mess. i think that uncertainty has become the new normal. and the result of that is that -- or the cause of that, i think, is not just economic uncertainty, but this uncertainty that's created by massive federal government intervention. i think entrepreneurs are incredibly resilient. i mean there's entrepreneurship in cuba, okay? so we will always have small businesses no matter how big the government gets and no matter how controlling. but what they have to realize is the impact of this stuff.
there was a study done by the kansas city fed last year, found out that they -- the entrepreneurs hired 6% less people than they would have if it wasn't for red tape. just red tape. that translates to a million jobs over the course of the year. 40 billion dollars of lost revenue that the government could have collected taxes on. so what i'm seeing for next year is a continuation of this as an investor, we're looking at the dangers of europe affecting -- no one knows what's going to happen to our banking system because of the european connections. and i think that that's going to have a big impact. that uncertainty is going to continue and be the new normal. >> it's interesting. we always hear uncertainty, i don't quite know what to do because i don't know the impact of what i'm going to do because i'm not sure about the taxes and regulations. brian hamilton, you also have some good news coming out in a survey that you guys did. >> yeah, guys, wait, hold the phone. look at the last 12 months, revenues are up. profits are up. the facts are good. so, attitudes, what's going to happen, it's all important, but let's look at what's actually
happening out there. private companies, 27 million of them, are growing right now. that's a fact over the last 12 months, so, it's kind of missed in the media picture. we need to know what's actually happening, and according to our data, you know, it's very strong. >> and do you feel like that's going to continue into 2012? >> well, it's a great question. over the last 200 years we have found that for every four years of expansion we have a downer year, right? so once those tides start to turn, you know, they usually keep going. so we expect a good year. we really do. >> brian hecht, you are sort of the quintessential entrepreneur. you have started and sold three businesses. in the tech base, which is a little different than a lot of the other businesses, and kind of booming right now. but what do you feel as an entrepreneur? >> yeah, i feel, like phil said, 2011 was a very messy year, marked by a lot of indecision. a lot of entrepreneurs i know are trying to decide, is it the time to grow or is it the time to pull back and preserve capital and make sure that we
have enough cash in the bank if we have another bad year or another bad year. that said entrepreneurs are always going to be biased towards growth. that's why we're entrepreneurs. so they're really looking for opportunities. and when the data begins to tip in our favor, we're really going to seize those opportunities. so 2012, i think, is going to be not a radical shift, but even gist a subtle shift, easier lending, easier raising capital, easier to stimulate a little bit of consumer demand. that could really switch things to be growth here for 2012 for entrepreneurs. >> you're raising your eyebrows. phil, and -- >> i don't think we're going to be seeing easier lending. the banks are in big trouble. the regulations coming down on banks are incredibly restrictive. they're not able to lend to entrepreneurs and say sure, we'll make the deal. which means people in my business, angel capital, are going to be the go-to people for entrepreneurs. that means they're going to have to step up their game. we should talk about that, how to step your game up so you can
get capital when capital isn't available. because i think that's what's coming in 2012. >> brian hamilton, when brian hecht was talking about how he thinks things are getting a little better, you're shaking your head. >> well, look. look at the data right now, revenues are up. that's a fact. it's happening right now, guys. it's already tipping. now, what's happening, the attitudes are now catching up to the data. but we've got to get that data out there. things are not a mess right now. they're not. revenue is up for private companies. about 6% to 7% across the board. across 1400 industries. so it's not all gloom and doom. and we need to get that out there. >> phil, what do you think your small business owners need the most to keep their optimism up? >> well, we need customers. i mean if you look at the optimism measures out there, of course the university of michigan index for consumers is the worst we've seen since 1980. not a great time. and even though we've had the nfib index go up for three months now, it's still lower than it was in january. so not a lot of progress over the year.
uncertainty is say big issue. we did a special study of dunn and brad street firms that had fewer than 250 employees and we found on a one to seven scale, 60% of the owners rated it a six or a seven as uncertainty about business conditions, and over half of them attributed that to politics. what's going on in politics. and of course, that is important. we don't know what our tax rates are going to be. just, you know, in the next month or so. we don't know what's going to happen with health care, will it be there at all? what will it cost us for employees? there are so many things we don't know about and we hear about europe. that's a scary thing. not that we think, you know, we'll be exactly like athens, for example, but we know that our fiscal path is one that's similar to the ones that the sovereign governments over in europe were following. so we need to get off of that. a nice settlement on something in washington would be very helpful, as well. >> so, we've got to end this conversation, but i want to end it with one thing from each of you. it's a political year next year. and starting january, we're just going to be going full speed
ahead. so if you had one thing to say to washington, this is what small business owners need this year, what would it be? brian hamilton, i'll start with you. >> what are you going to do? what -- are the taxes going to be what policies are going to be in effect, give me something that i can plan doctor. it's that simple. now, whether that will happen, of course, you know, is anyone's question. >> this is our wish list. okay. phil? >> well, i second that statement, but i would add, please roll back the regulations to maybe where they were when clinton was in office, in 1999. let's get the regulators out of our business. and let us be free to do what we can do best. >> brian? >> without any specific policy prescriptions i will say make it easy for small businesses to hire people. we have no capacity to handle a lot of bureaucracy. make it easy. everybody wins. >> all right. and bill, we will end with you. >> i agree with that. it would be nice to have certainty, even if it's bad certainty. we would know what was going on. that would be very helpful. you know, we'd like to see some of the regs and dodd-frank
rolled back so venture capitalists and angel investors could more easily function to start these new firms that we like to see there. so less regulation across the board. oh, my goodness, that would be really terrific. but also give us a way out of this fiscal mess that we're in so that we can believe in the future, and the grease coming our way. >> i thank all four of you for your insight. i look forward to talking to you at the end of 2012 to see what comes of next year and hope to see you actually before then. thanks so much, brian hamilton and bill dunkelberg. you guys stick around. >> thanks, j.j. we talk a lot on this show about starting companies that are in line with your passions. but we also have a lot of cautious tales about how passion isn't everything. you have to be able to run a sound business. we have a story now about a woman who was passionate about dancing. and when she decided to hang up her professional dancing shoes, she found that she was able to make a second career out of that same love.
professional dancing takes agility and discipline. just ask a world famous radio city rockette. >> front. bring it back. good. >> the same could be said about running a small business. ask any owner what it takes to survive in this economy, and the same qualities could very well make it to the top of the list. >> that's good. good, girls. >> amy burn ethnos what it takes to defeat in both worlds. she performed with the rockettes for more than a decade. and recently opened up the next step broadway dance studio in jersey city, new jersey. >> there are no dance studios in jersey city right now. so, you know, i seized the moment. this is an area with lots of kids. and we're right next door to broadway. i think i have something special to offer them. >> but amy knew success in the business is entirely different from being successful at
business. so she set out to become professional at that, as well. >> i took a year to prepare myself for the business. so, i talked with a lot of entrepreneurs and got ideas. i took business seminars. and learned simple things like how to write a business plan. >> a plan calling specifically for measured growth. initially, classes were limited in time and scope. >> we started with dance classes. and a couple of voice and acting classes, as well. ♪ ♪ these are a few of my favorite things ♪ >> so they have a whole morning of hours empty. and we needed to fill those hours. >> as amy's business grew, so did her ability to innovate. she soon discovered she could monetize something that many business owners might overlook. space. why did you think of the idea of renting space? >> because in the beginning, i'm -- i was very busy as a business owner, and couldn't
take on another class myself. so, it was easy to get these other businesses to come in. they had already created a class themselves and they could just come right in and rent the space. ♪ i heard -- in the middle of the night ♪ >> for adam robert, a legacy of music for aardvarks is the perfect situation. >> right now i'm in four different locations, five days a week. i need a space like this, so it's wonderful that her space is empty in the morning and that i can use it. >> with adam's popular class bringing in children and parents, she discovered a perfect way to build awareness and advertise her dance studio for free. >> families come in that wouldn't normally come in, because their children are a little younger. or interested in something just a little bit different than we have to offer. they like the surroundings, they like that it's a safe, fun environment, and we get more students that way. >> amy was aggressive, yet focused in her expansion. she added advanced classes, and a performance-themed summer
camp. adults were also on amy's radar. >> we definitely wanted to start adult classes. but our challenge was finding when the adults could come in, and we found out that they needed baby-sitters. so our answer to that was to have a children's class at the same time. >> amy also found a revenue stream in collaborating with other local performance groups. >> i always wanted to do a holiday show for my children, but i wasn't quite ready to take that on myself. so, the local dance company came to me and said, we have an adult dance company, and we're wanting to do the nutcracker for our community. and you have the children. so, collaborating with this dance company was perfect. >> the agility gained through years of dancing is paying off in an unexpected way. now she's preparing a new generation of performers to take their first steps. >> i love the children, i love watching them. enjoy dancing. expressing themselves.
kids are just amazing. so to watch them learn from you, and showing them what you know, to see the smiles on their face, it makes me happy every day. >> what franchise categories are primed for continued growth next year? here are five franchise trends to keep an eye on in 2012, courtesy of entrepreneur magazine. number one, burgers. the new breed of better burger restaurants is on the rise. and more seasoned fast food franchises are expanding their menus to compete. two, the child care industry. franchises offer parents a variety of options, ranging from nannies and baby-sitters to educational child care centers. three, sandwiches. subway became the biggest quick-service chain in the world this year. showing just how popular sandwiches are. but, smaller sandwich franchises are still finding plenty of room to grow, as well. four, the fitness industry.
trendy gyms, dance classes, boxing studios and other franchise fitness options are going strong. and number five, senior care. with the first baby boomers turning 65 this year, franchise offerings have expanded from simple companion care to include medical care, assisted living placement and transportation. still to come, what are the biggest challenges facing small business owners today? phil ryan has some answers for us. and a passion for a holiday classic becomes a becoming small business in ohio. shazi: seven years ago, i had this idea. to make baby food the way moms would. happybaby strives to make the best organic baby food. in a business like ours, personal connections are so important. we use our american express open gold card to further those connections.
last year we took dozens of trips using membership rewards points to meet with farmers that grow our sweet potatoes and merchants that sell our product. vo: get the card built for business spending. call 1-800-now-open to find out how the gold card can serve your business. 'tis the season for many small businesses to capitalize on the holiday spending frenzy. it's a particularly busy time for those entrepreneurs whose businesses are seasonal. that's certainly the case for one ohio-based entrepreneur we met last year. whose passion for the holiday film classic "a christmas story" attracts fans of the movie from far and wide. 'tis the month before christmas, and all through the house, the tourists are flocking, to see "a christmas story" house. the leg lamp was placed by the
window with care, not one person left without a knickknack to share. >> we sell t-shirts, sweat shirts, bunny suits, leg lamps, leg lamp night lights, leg lamp ornaments, leg lamp cookie cutters. we sell lifebuoy soap, of course, fudge, actual oh, fudge. >> brian jones is a lifelong fan of the 1983 holiday classic "a christmas story." >> my husband is very "christmas story" obsessed. >> his favorite scene features the legendary leg lamp. >> will you look at that! this is glorious. it's -- it's -- it's inscribebly beautiful. it reminds me of the fourth of july. >> what started on a whim in 2003 turned into a business, he ran out of his garage in san diego. >> sell a couple leg lamps, it will be kind of funny, a little extra income. and it just exploded. i was like, okay, i guess i'll do it full time. >> although he was a little worried about the fees, jones contacted the film company, warner brothers, early on to
license the rights. >> i got a letter back from them saying okay, that's great. if you're going to do something further, let us know. >> just a year after starting his leg lamp business, the house where the movie was made came up for sale on ebay. >> took me all of about 30 seconds, i decided to buy it. it said it was in cleveland, ohio. i didn't know where cleveland, ohio, was. i had to put it in map quest. cleveland, ohio. >> i didn't know whether to laugh or cry. because, that's exactly how i felt at the time. >> oh, it's a little far from san diego. i can make it work, no problem. >> without a clear plan, jones bought the house, sight unseen. making a down payment with money from his fledgling leg lamp business. with the intention of restoring the house to the way it looked in the movie, inside and out, jones needed money. >> i started kind of the christmas story convention as a fund-raiser to try and generate some money to renovate the house. and once the house opened, just kind of, we hadded grand opening. like this has been a lot of fun, let's continue it. >> now every year at a fancy
hotel in cleveland, the christmas story convention kicks off the holiday season. bringing diehard fans of the movie out to meet the actors. diehard fans of the movie out to meet the actors. >> randy parker. >> tour the house, and pose with the leg lamp. for jones it was a no-brainer. his "christmas story" house and leg lamp was officially a big deal and he figured it was time to call warner brothers back. >> it had to be licensed to call it a christmas story house. and licensing has been a boom for jones and his business. his website has become a one-stop shopping for all things associated with "a christmas story." >> we would not be anywhere if it were not for all the
memorabilia and stuff that we are able to sale because we license. it's the right thing to do, and in the end it really works out well for you. it's time now to answer some of your business questions. brian and phil are with us once again. the first question is about the state of small business? >> what do you see as the top five universal challenges small owners face today? >> i think here there are some things people face. i will start with you, brad. >> competition with cheap technology. if you had a website or new store you had a good defense, and now it's so easy and cheap for a competitor to come in and if they have a good product or better product they just eat your lunch. so you have to have a eye on the
defense, and there's still enormous competition for talent. many say there's so many unemployed people out there, just go on craigslist and get one, but that's not true. i have a difficult time hiring really good people in this market. >> you want as, because they hire as. that's good one. i will beat my dump i beat every time. intrapreneurs try to compete on price, and when we see people competing on price they under capitalize, and they cannot get lending or investing, and it's a terrible business model as what i see as the number one problem.
>> you have a couple more. >> yes, i do. i call this the bright shiny object problem, and we have mobile and facebook and twitter, and that's a lot of fun and we don't want to think our businesses are going viral. it's hard to make money from those things. it's cheaper to get involved so it's easy to get lured into them, and if i am spending time, time is money and am i going to maybe money. >> this is an e-mail from frank, and he says i was working for a large real estate brokerage for nine years and i want to attract new agents and offering a split of 90-10 to seasoned agents. how do i convince these agents to make the change in this economy? >> he is competing on price. we will give you more, and we are competing on price. he needs to go and be great in a
boutique brokerage, and get a hold of something that he can control and understand, and the way you do that is you serve your community, and get involved in the chamber of commerce, and that's what will bring people to you because you will have the listings in that area. >> and small businesses can provide something for employees that large businesses often can't, flexibility. >> a little flexibility is in order here. why do i enjoy this? community service? there's so many reasons people decide where they want to work. people work for managers, not necessarily a company. are you a good manager? that makes all the difference. >> let's move on to the next one. this is from an owner of a
company that sells t-shirts. i wonder how i can get people to buy once visiting my t-shirt site, and i can get folks to go on the site and see what it has to offer, but they don't buy. >> brian is like the world's expert on this. >> i will take this one. i deal with this in every company i have ever had. our viewer has a good problem because a lot of people have trouble getting people to go to their site. but even the letters you used to get in the mail you used to get to get you to buy into a record club, and all of those fundamentals are still true, and the one i think is most important, when somebody arrives at a web page, give them one thing to do and one thing only. people get a content rich
experience with all these different places to explore, and those are distraction, click here now are the three most important words. >> i would load up the testimonials, because i respond when i go and look at a new site and i want to see are people using this and getting a good thing out of it, and how you get those, you send a message, a thank you message to your buyers, and then you let them respond and then you have your testimony. >> i don't know if you have read the book "influence," and to your point about little things you can do that get people to buy or do something, and it's one of my favorite books. fantastic advice. appreciate it. if any of you out there have a question for the experts go to the website,
openforum.com/yourbusiness, or can you e-mail your questions and comments and the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. brian and phil had helpful advice about how to improve your business, but now let's get great ideas from small business owners like you. >> doesn't matter if it's your first, second or shot, and always follow that passion of what you are willing to do for free. never let money be the
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@msnbcyourbiz. the 80s and the 90s were outsourcing, but i think now it's about right sourcing, finding which countries are right for your supply chain. >> so what is going on in china? why are some manufacturers pulling out and opening new factories right here in the united states? until then, i am j.j. ramburg, and remember, we make your business our business. sam: i'm sam chernin. owner of sammy's fish box. i opened the first sammy's back in 1966. my employees are like family. and, i want people that work for me to feel that they're sharing in my success. we purchase as much as we can on the american express open gold card. so we can accumulate as many points as possible. i pass on these points to my employees to go on trips with their families.